Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The relocated tower of Kirton church

click photo to enlarge
The church of St Peter and St Paul at Kirton-in-Holland, Lincolnshire, is a typical, big medieval town church. It has a large nave with buttressed aisles, a fine clerestory with pinnacles above, a lower chancel with big Perpendicular-style windows, a south porch, parapets that are embattled and richly decorated, and at the west end a tall, imposing tower. When lit by a raking sun its details are thrown into sharp relief and it makes a noble sight. But, all is not as it seems with this building.

Firstly, Kirton (as it is usually known) is no longer a market town, but a large village, and the church though of a size found in many villages in South Lincolnshire, is much bigger than is is usual in a settlement of this size elsewhere in the country. Then there's that west tower. Anyone surveying the building today who had seen it in the period between, say, 1500 and 1800, would be puzzled by it. Why? Because during those years it had a crossing tower (i.e. it was in the centre of the church), from the four sides of which stretched the nave, chancel and transepts. Today there are no transepts and the tower is at the west end of the building. What happened to effect this change? How did the tower get from the middle to the end of the church?

In 1804-5 the transepts were removed and the crossing tower taken down. Then, re-using some of this stonework, the west tower was built and all evidence of the crossing removed. The architect of this unusual transformation was William Hayward of Lincoln. Given the date of his work - before the 1840s when Pugin promoted the cause of historical veracity - it is remarkable that not only the untrained eye, but also the trained one, sees little evidence of the re-modelling unless it is pointed out to them. Perhaps a subsequent restoration by C.H. Fowler in 1897-1900 tidied up the building and made it more of a whole, but whatever the case, the church now looks to all intents and purposes as if it was built this way. Why was it done at all? I don't know, but I suspect that either the tower fell, or, more likely, it became unsafe and was deliberately taken down and a decision was made to reduce the overall size of the building.

In recent years it has been difficult to photograph this church in its entirety because of the large and close trees that surround it, but the recent felling of a couple of them has opened up a good view from the ESE (top image). However, I see a tree has been planted that will, in time, spoil this prospect as well!

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 47mm
F No: 7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On